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   CSIRO  |  SOLVE  | Issue 7  |  May 06  
Critical Mass
By Ava Bentley

Powerful new software is being developed to analyse national infrastructure to improve the way it is maintained and protected.

The Nerve Centre

The Australian Government defines critical infrastructure as “those physical facilities, supply chains, information technologies and communication networks which, if destroyed, degraded or rendered unavailable for an extended period, would significantly impact on the social or economic well-being of the nation, or affect Australia’s ability to conduct national defence and ensure national security”. Critical infrastructure extends across many sectors of the economy, including energy and water, communications, food supply, health, transport, banking, industry, key government services and national icons.

Because critical infrastructure tends to be interdependent and even interconnected, a systems failure – be it through natural disaster, terrorism or poor management – can bring entire communities, and their industries and utilities, to a grinding halt.

For example, a major electricity failure these days can bring just about everything to a stop, from transport to workplaces. Failures with water supplies, telecommunications and transport hubs would cause similar widespread disruption and damage.

While the issue has been heightened by the threat of terrorism, industry groups have been more worried by a perceived general run-down in critical infrastructure, with the Business Council of Australia recently calling for urgent government action to ensure infrastructure keeps pace with industry and community needs.

However, part of the problem is getting a handle on the complex infrastructure interactions across so many different sectors of the economy, which is where a research body like CSIRO Manufacturing and Infrastructure Technology (CMIT) has a particularly important job to perform.

CSIRO researchers have begun development of a powerful computer model that can analyse critical infrastructure and its interdependencies, vulnerabilities and the critical points at which they could fail. Called CIPMA (Critical Infrastructure Protection Modelling and Analysis Program) it is being designed to assess high-level infrastructure networks like the National Electricity Market (NEM), or local precincts such as the central business district of an Australian city.

Photo: Ross BirdCIPMA was launched in February by the Attorney-General’s Department, with a budget of $19 million. The program is being designed to identify the areas of highest risk in Australia’s infrastructure and related systems, gauge the flow‑on effects if all or part of the infrastructure fails or is compromised, and assess which critical infrastructure relationships needed preventative strengthening.

The program is being managed by a developmental team working under the auspices of the Trusted Information Sharing Network, a partnership between private and public sectors.

Dr Raden Kusumo, a senior CSIRO researcher working on CIPMA, says the creation of this partnership has been a crucial first step because most critical infrastructure is owned by the private sector. “Thus, the development of CIPMA capability requires a consistent cooperative partnership approach between the CIPMA Development Team, governments and the owners and operators of critical infrastructure. It would be extremely difficult to build such a complex monitoring system without industry engagement and trust.”

The CIPMA initiative is being driven by the CIPMA Development Team, which comprises the Attorney-General’s Department, Geoscience Australia and CSIRO. The CIPMA objectives are to:

  • identify connections between and across critical infrastructure sectors;
  • better understand the behaviour of complex networks;
  • analyse the relationships that exist between critical infrastructure sectors and their interdependencies;
  • examine the cascade effects of infrastructure failure;
  • identify potential points of failure, choke points and other vulnerabilities;
  • assess options for investment in improved security; and
  • test mitigation strategies and business continuity plans.

The program is focussing initially on three high-priority sectors: energy, communications, and banking and finance.

Dr Kusumo says CSIRO’s primary role in CIPMA is to develop infrastructure network models, a decision-support module and a dynamic network system that links all the models. “The network models represent the functional relationships within and between sectors, sub‑sectors and installations,” he says. “These models will be used to simulate the behaviour of the infrastructure network during disruption scenarios and to assess the flow-on consequences of those disruptions.”

The decision-support module is designed to quantitatively assess the economic and population impacts of disruptions and to analyse the effectiveness of mitigation plans.

Dr Kusumo says the dynamic network system operates as an integration platform, linking all the software modules and infrastructure network models in CIPMA.

A proof-of-concept demonstration of CIPMA’s capabilities is scheduled to take place in May, and completion of the models for the three high-priority sectors in June.

APPLICATION A powerful computer model is being developed to analyse critical infrastructure and its interdependencies, vulnerabilities and the critical points of possible failure

BENEFIT It will help industry better understand the complex infrastructure interactions that occur across different sectors of the economy

For further information contact:
CSIRO Enquiries
Email: Solve@csiro.au      Web: www.csiro.au
Freecall: 1300 363 400       International: +61 3 9545 2176

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Last Updated: June 1, 2006
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